Barlow flooded, sustains heavy damage

Extensive flooding in Sebastopol’s “Barlow” center late last week forced tenants to evacuate the area, leaving their shops at the mercy of the rising tides.

Following three days of flooding, cleanup is now underway and damage is currently being assessed. Early estimates predict roughly $6 million in damages, both to the properties themselves and the inventory of the businesses.

Located along the Laguna de Santa Rosa, The Barlow was just one of several dozen areas impacted by the intense rainfall. 

With flood waters steadily rising higher and higher on Tuesday, tenants were told by management in an email late that night that they may implement the flood barriers, although they did not receive any other updates until the following morning — but it was already too late. 

The “city-approved” floodgates, which Barlow owner Barney Aldridge and his advisors crafted over a six-year period, did little to prevent damage to a large portion of its shops, and the pumps installed during construction did not work quickly enough to mitigate the floodwaters. 

The Barlow, pictured above, is a high-end boutique business district within Sebastopol’s downtown market.

The Barlow, pictured above, is a high-end boutique business district within Sebastopol’s downtown market.

In the end, a handful of the business — once popular and thriving — may not reopen, including both the Village Bakery and The Crooked Goat. 

Tenants like Kenner and Kendra Kolling, who lost their home in the 2017 wildfires, spoke with The Press Democrat about their misfortunes. 

“I am just not sure if I can do this anymore, not after all the trauma my family and I have endured,” Kolling said, crying. “We are responsible for everything in the interior of our stores and The Barlow protects the exterior. But they sunk our interior by not having enough labor or responsibility to prepare for the flood.”

With more rainy weather on the way, it is not known whether or not the flooding will reach The Barlow again this year.

Questions have arisen concerning, among other things, the management’s handling of the emergency protocol and the city’s approval of the development’s plans in the first place, as surrounding business districts were raised some 20 feet in order to prevent disasters like this from happening. 

As cleanup continues throughout the week and into next, more will become clear in the coming weeks as to the well-being of The Barlow and its tenants, although lawsuits may be on the horizon.